Iberian Immersion Cruise on the Oceania Riviera
11/4/21 to 11/20/21

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Page 1 – Pre-cruise in Nice, France; Embarkation, Ship (Part 1)
Page 2 – Ship (Part 2); Ports of Call:  Marseille, France; Toulon, France
Page 3 - Ports of Call: 
Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Cartagena, Spain; Melilla, Spain; Alicante, Spain
Page 4 -
Ports of Call: Ibiza, Spain;  Catania, Sicily; Naples, Italy
Page 5 - Rome, Italy: 
Day 1 & Day 2 (Part 1)
Page 6 -
Rome, Italy:  Day 2 (Part 2) & Day 3


Ports of Call (Continued)

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Palma had been substituted for Barcelona for some reason in the itinerary.  I have to assume that it was a Covid issue. I was rather pleased about the change, since I had been to Barcelona many times and Cathy had also been there before.  I was especially looking forward to seeing the drop-dead gorgeous cathedral again and to show it to Cathy.  We left Toulon about an hour late due to some type of medical emergency.  Later in the day as we got into the open sea, the wind was causing large waves that required the ship to go at slower speeds that would delay our arrival in Mallorca.  We didn’t know how delayed we would be, and we were very concerned that with the cathedral closing at a very early 3:15 PM, we might not get to see it.

Finally, around 2:00 PM we were able to see the port of Palma in the distance.  I put on my telephoto lens and was able to get photos of a fort close to town and the town itself including a cool looking castle above the town.



The cathedral also looked gorgeous from our approach.

We didn’t dock until about 2:30 PM, which didn’t leave us much time to get to the cathedral.  Then we had to wait to be cleared to disembark, which took a lot of time.  We didn’t get off the ship until after 3:00 PM.  We took the first shuttle into town, but as we approached the cathedral, we saw lots of people leaving it.  We were too late and missed going inside.  We were so disappointed.  Even without the cathedral, Palma is great port to walk around, so we did.  So much to see, so little time to enjoy it.  We would leave port at 9:00 PM, but that didn’t mean much since sunset was around 5:00 PM and we had dinner reservations at Red Ginger at 6:30 PM.  So, we saw the cathedral's exterior and as much as we could in the available time.




We did find a church to check out.  If you haven’t read other reviews of mine, I love visiting any type of church, mosque or synagogue.  When I see one, I can’t pass it up.  And I am glad I didn’t.





We walked around the streets some more looking at the cathedral from a distance and returned to the ship to enjoy the evening activities.



Cartagena, Spain

I was looking forward to our visit to Cartegena.  It is a port that I have not previously visited, and it looked like a great place to visit.  On our approach to the port, I could see that it was a mountainous area. 

As we got closer, we could see Fort Concepcion on the top of the mountain with lots of communication antennas nearby.  It had been there since the 1st century BC and had been used by the Carthaginians, Romans and others.

We were told that the entry to the port would be interesting, and it certainly was.



As we left the ship, we were greeted by a local group dressed in period costumes.

I had read that it wasn’t necessary to have a tour in Cartagena, since everything is close by and easy to get to.  So that is what we did.  We would do our own walking tour of Cartagena.  We started out and saw a most unusual site, a head sticking out of the ground.  Definitely a popular photo opp.

We continued down the street admiring the beautiful buildings and statues everywhere.





I loved the beautifully tiled pedestrian streets.


I really wanted to see the Roman theater but was having difficulty finding it with Google maps.  As we were walking we saw a tour group from the ship walking toward a building.  It was the House of Fortune, a Roman villa dating back to the 1st century BC.  With the ship group there at the same time as us, it was rather crowded and not as enjoyable as it could be.  It was still interesting to see this over 2,000 year old home.



The first place the Google map took us to was an area near the university and old amphitheater that was more recently used as a bull ring.  The biggest issue was that there was no way to be able to get to the bull ring or closer to where we wanted to go because of construction and/or excavation that was in progress.  We were very frustrated because we were putting in a lot of steps and not getting where we wanted to get.  We did walk through some lovely narrow streets during our search.

We talked with some other tourists who were having the same problem.  They were heading a different way, so we did the same thing.  We finally saw the elevator that would take us up to a level where I thought we could see the Roman theater, so we would know where to go. 

This is a photo of the elevator from the top.  It is really a great way to get up to a higher elevation and it only cost 2 Euros for a round trip.   When we got to the top, we walked around seeing the sights.  The tower was the first thing that drew our attention.


It was a great place for panoramic views. 


We even saw the Riviera from there.  We could also see the Roman theater I had been looking for.


The reason that the elevator was there was to make it easier to see the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, so since we were there, we decided to check it out.  There was a lot of walking and not really that much to see inside. 


Since we could see where the theater was at, we would be able to descend on the elevator and go to it.  When we got there, we were at the exit and not able to get in.  Based on the map app, I told Cathy that I would go to where the entrance appeared to be and come back and get her if it was there.  I had to climb up a bunch of stairs and got a great view of the Roman theater but did not find the entrance. 



I also got a great view of the theater that had been turned into a bull ring. 

I came back to where Cathy was and gave her the bad news.  We then ran into a couple who told us where the entrance was.  They said that it wasn’t obvious that it was an entrance.  We had passed it when we first came into town and is in one of the earlier photos.  Oh well, we did see more than we had planned to see while trying to find the entrance.

We walked over to the disguised entrance, paid the entrance fee, and walked through the main building that had some pretty nice historical sections of the theater. 



We finally got to see the theater from the inside. It was a smaller theater than those I had seen when in Turkey a couple months earlier, but quite nice.





After leaving the theater I was able to get a photo of the head statue in the sunlight.

We then returned to the ship after way more walking than I had planned on.  As we sailed away from Cartagena, I was able to get a nice photo of the fort during the golden hour.


Melilla, Spain

Melilla was a port I was really looking forward to visiting.  It is an autonomous city of Spain located on 4.7 square miles of Morocco’s northeast coast.  In addition to having a beautiful walled old town, it is also the city in Spain with the second highest number of modernist buildings, after Barcelona, because Gaudi’s apprentice moved there.  The entry into town was enjoyable with lots to look at.


After having issues getting around in Cartagena, I decided to book a tour in Melilla.  I had to choose between an old town or modernist tour.  Having seen lots of Gaudi architecture in Barcelona, we decided on the old town.  But since I decided on booking the tour the day before, the only time that was available was a 1:00 PM tour, so we had plenty of time to explore in the morning.  The port authority provided a shuttle bus that stopped at old town and other parts of the city.  We boarded the bus and in less than 5 minutes we were at old town.  It was very close.  The main reason for the bus was to get passengers safely out of the port area.  Where we were dropped off was in front of a massive walled structure.  My main goal this morning, before the tour, was to see the beautiful view along the water that had been shown in the ship’s daily info paper, Currents.  Looking at the map we had been given of the city on the bus, it wasn’t apparent where to go, so we just headed off to find what we could.

We walked up some stairs to an open area where we could look down on the plaza with a fishing boat.  We would learn about it later during our official tour.


We walked over to where there were signs on the wall telling us that it was the archeological and history museum of Melilla.  We spent a short time looking around, and asked the attendant how to get to the area I was looking for on the water.


Based on her instructions, we continued up some more stairs to an area with a statue and panoramic view of the town.


We then took another path along a very narrow road that felt like we were in a canyon with steep walls.

It was so interesting walking through this fortified town.   We were pretty much by ourselves strolling through a medieval castle with great views.   





We saw some open doors, so we went into what we found out was the military museum.  It had quite a collection even though in a small area.


After climbing some more steps we came to the view I had been seeking.  It was gorgeous!  With the sun not being in the best angle, the photos don’t represent the real beauty of this spot.  I guess no photo could, even in the best conditions.  I took lots of photos from different angles.


Turning the other way was also quite a view with the waves crashing against the  steep wall.


I walked all around the walls trying to get all the views possible to remember this place.


Looking for a way out of the fortress was also challenging.  We did get to see more of the place, but we just didn’t know where we would come out.  We did take a photo of ourselves in front of the lighthouse building.

We decided to just follow a street down to sea level rather than the fortress corridors. 

We eventually got to where the shuttle bus had dropped us off.  It wasn’t long before another one came by.  In addition to old town, the shuttle also stopped in the modern section, so we were able to see some of that area too.  It is a pretty town.


We stopped in front of church while waiting for the traffic light.  I was able to take a photo of a statue of Cervantes writing his Don Quixote novel with Don Quixote looking over his shoulder. Kind of cute.


The shuttle dropped us off at the Riviera and we needed to have a quick lunch to be ready for our tour.  It gave us an opportunity to try the Waves Grill, which was just excellent.

We met our guides for the tour just outside the ship where a shuttle would pick us up.  There were two guides, since the group was to be split to keep the groups to a manageable size.  Our guide, Gabriella, was great!  The other guide apparently was really bad.  We would run into the other group periodically and they would complain to us how he was soft spoken and had an accent that made it very difficult to understand what he was saying.  Unlike our guide who was very upbeat and fun, he was low key and somber.  We were glad we had our tour with Gabriella.

We exited the bus in the middle of town and Gabriella proceeded to tell us all about Melilla and what we would see.  Apparently, Morocco is not very fond of Melilla and has made it difficult for them to obtain products from Morocco and other countries.  Morocco pretty much treats Melilla like East Germany treated Berlin with the barriers and security.  The main square area had lots to take photos of.



We left the main square and headed to old town.  We could see the fortress we visited in the morning in the distance. 

As we got closer, we could see how big the total structure was.


In the plaza was the Monument to the Four Cultures which represent the tolerance of the 4 mixed cultures in Melilla with Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims living in harmony.  It is a strange piece, and I certainly don’t see what the artist is trying to express in his work.

We walked around to a different side of old town and saw an area leading to the water.  We had seen this from above during our morning exploration.


We then came to the plaza where the fishing boat we had seen earlier was at.  Gabriella explained that it was the last fishing boat that went out of Melilla and is a monument to the all the boats that used to fish the waters.  They had to stop when Morocco prevented them from fishing in their waters where the good fishing was at.  The Melilla waters themselves didn’t have enough fish to support the trade.  Kind of sad.  As a result, Melilla must import fish for eating while being on the coastline.

We then walked to area where we had previously gone to the archeological museum.  She gave us a short tour and pointed out that at one time there was an active Jewish population in Melilla.


Gabriella also wanted to show us the cistern and water filtration sections that were next to the museum.  I hadn’t paid attention to them on our morning tour, so I am glad she showed us.  The first room I went into was the filtration room.  Apparently before the collected water went into the cisterns, it was filtered through a bed of gravel and sand in the first room.  It is difficult to vision with the room being empty.


The next two doors I went through were the cisterns themselves.  They were quite deep.  Gabriella told us how many cisterns they had, I believe 16, but I could be wrong.


We continued the walking tour enjoying the scenery.


We came to a church that I would have liked to check out, but we didn’t have time for it.  I wish I had seen it in the morning when I did have time.

When we came to the view of the coastline, the sun angle was different and there was less sunlight on the wall, but it was a different look.  We didn’t stay there very long, so I was really glad that we had spent a lot of time at this lovely place in the morning.


As we left for the shuttle bus, I was able to get a nice shot of the lighthouse building.  It’s a shame I couldn’t see the full lighthouse from the fortress.  We could also see how close the Riviera was docked to the old town.


After getting on the shuttle, Gabriella told us that she would have the shuttle drive through part of the modernist area, which we were thrilled about. 



We were tired and didn’t have much time to explore the modern area on our own, so we were satisfied with the drive, even though I wasn’t able to get many photos through the shuttle windows.  We had seen enough. When we got back on the ship, I was able to get a photo of the port lighthouse, but not the old town one.  It had been a most enjoyable day in a fascinating city.


Alicante, Spain

I had never been to Alicante, so I was excited to see as much of the area as we could.  I liked what I saw as we came into port.  Living in flat south Florida, it is always a pleasure to visit a place with mountains.  We could see the Castle of Santa Barbara on top of the mountain close to town.



We had a ship tour called Alicante, Novelda & Wine Tasting that would give us a walk around old town, a drive out to see the Magic Mountain in the town of Novelda and finish with a wine tasting.  We would be having a very nice sampling of Alicante.  Our tour guide was Marco.  He came from a family that had been in the wine business for generations, so he was most knowledgeable during the wine tasting portion of the tour.  He was also most knowledgeable about the history of Alicante.  We had once again lucked out with a very pleasant and experienced guide to share his part of the world with us.

A bus picked us up outside the ship and drove us toward old town.  We passed by some nice spots, and I looked forward to getting out and walking around this lovely town. 


As we got into the old town, the first major building we saw was the town hall. 

The main attraction we saw was a statue of St. John by Salvador Dali.  It is a strange one, but after all it was done by Dali.

We continued walking main street taking in the lovely surroundings.


We came to the Basilica of Santa Maria but were only allowed to appreciate the exterior.  It is the oldest active church in Alicante and was built between the 14th and 16th centuries.  I really wanted to see the inside, but we weren’t allowed to.


Marco stopped at a nondescript staircase.  He said that this was intentionally left very plain looking in the early days of Alicante since it went up to where the elite lived, and they didn’t want everyone to realize it.

We continued our walk through the lovely area.


Our next stop was the St. Nicholas Cathedral.  It was built in the 1600’s and had a lovely entrance.  Marcos told us all about it but once again we weren’t allowed to see the interior.


We continued our walking tour and came to the Passeig Esplanada d'Espanya.  Just a great place to be on a beautiful day.  We were lucky that it wasn’t too crowded, so we could see the beautiful tile design. 

We got back on to our bus for the 45-minute drive through the mountainous Spanish countryside.


Marco had told us that we were going to a place called the Magic Mountain.  From a distance we could see what looked like a most unusual church, but we would have to wait to see it.  When we arrived in the parking lot, we could see the remains of the 12th century Castle de Mola.  Inside the large walls were ruins of what was once there.


A most unusual feature of the castle is the triangular shaped tower.

We took in the great panoramic view of the area while walking around the castle.


The main attraction on the Magic Mountain is the Sanctuary of Santa María Magdalena.  This unique church was built in 1918 by a follower of Gaudi, which explains why it has similarities to Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia.  It is quite a striking structure.





Also on the grounds is beautiful marble monument.


We were able to enter this small church.   Due to its size, groups had to wait until other groups had left the church or moved to a different section to let others look around.




The organ pipes on the side of the church were quite unusual.

After leaving the church and driving to the wine tasting venue, I was able to look back and get a photo of the church in the distance perched on the mountainside. 

We pulled into the Bodega Heretat de Cesilia.  The property was given to a Marquis in 1707 as payment for services to the crown.  A rather nice payment.  The grounds were beautiful, and they also had a nice view of the church we had just visited in the distance.



We had a brief look into where the wine was kept, but not much else, since we only had Marco showing us around.


The facility itself was one of the nicer ones I have been in.  It had several rooms that could handle groups of various sizes.   The décor looked old west to me, but I assume it was what old Spanish looked like.


The tables were set up with 3 glasses for each person with some crackers and olives that were grown at the place.  One of the glasses was for water.  We sampled 2 whites using one glass and one red.  Since Marco was familiar with wineries the facility let him handle everything.  It was a bit strange, since I would have thought that they would have wanted to push people to buy some of their wines.  I wasn’t complaining about that; but normally vineyard employees show you around the facility and tell you about their production methods and wines.


After we were finished with the presentation, we headed back to the ship.  Just before we left port, I was able to get a nice shot of the port area.  Not long after as we pulled away from the dock, we had a brilliant sunset.  A great way to end a most enjoyable day.


Having eaten at the specialty restaurants each night, we were looking forward to our first meal in the main dining room.  As with all the other meals we had on the ship, it was also outstanding.



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